Two recent events have the potential to directly impact Brazilian interests, mainly the military and commercial areas — the ukraine war and the new National Security Strategy — therefore, they need to be analyzed by anyone who does business here in any part of the world and, especially, by the winner of the presidential elections.
From a military point of view, our relations have always been very close to the US and European countries, both in terms of doctrine and equipment. Today, there are two re-equipment programs that are considered strategic by our Forces, the submarine navy and hunting for Air Force.
The development of Submarine Development Program (PROSUB) in partnership with the France established in 2008, aimed at the transfer of technology for the manufacture of conventional submarines. This is the basis for the national development of the nuclear-powered submarine, considered a fundamental deterrent system for our interests and the integrity of the territorial sea and exclusive economic zone. In this matter, by the way, the cancellation of the purchase by Australia of French submarines last year, which were replaced by the American offer, deserves attention. And despite the very stiff diplomatic backlash from Paris, the replacement went ahead.
The FX2 program, for the re-equipment and modernization of the FAB – Brazilian Air Force’s fleet of supersonic military aircraft, established in 2006, aimed at the joint development of technology and the acquisition of a fourth generation multi-role aircraft. The choice of the Swedish Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen was largely due to the fact that it is not from a member country of the NATO, the US-led military alliance, and have no export restrictions as they do not contain US business systems. But with the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the Sweden decided to join the Atlantic alliance. And, NATO’s rules for technology transfer are quite different from those followed by former neutral Sweden.
Apart from these two main projects, the Brazilian Armed Forces have already acquired equipment, systems, and have an intensive exchange program with the North American forces.
Still in the military area, the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine should generate reforms in many of the world’s armed forces. Brazil cannot be left out of this list. Everyone noted the military disaster that was the Russian invasion and the key role that Western equipment and advice had played so far in Ukrainian survival, as well as in the subsequent counter-offensive. It is imperative, therefore, to realize that Western military technology has become an essential source of information for the planning of any modern armed force. To be without this connection will be the same as being doomed to prepare for a war of the past.
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On the other hand, the US government has launched its National Security Strategy, which outlines its world view and actions that must be taken. The document says that the world faces two challenges, the competition between great powers to shape a new international order and common transnational threats. Despite stating that one does not overlap the other, it makes it clear that the second needs cooperation, which becomes difficult in a time of competition between great powers.
This competition, in the White House’s view, is characterized as being between democracies and autocracies, with the US leading the first group and the China the second. To face this reality, the strategy outlines three lines: 1) invest in the US source of power and influence; 2) build coalitions to shape the international environment; 3) strengthen the armed forces.
In order to compete with China, it will be necessary to invest in innovation and industrial capacity on American soil, the important sectors being: semiconductors, advanced computing, biotechnology, clean energy and telecommunications. In addition, there is the defense of reviewing international trade rules, so the US will seek to bring together allies and partners to be able to combat anti-competitive practices and ensure high labor and environmental standards.
With the practice of “friendshoring”, that is, the search for friendly suppliers and partners, and, if possible, closer geographically, this new NSS will make Western companies re-evaluate their future investments, even in nearby countries. Very close diplomatic relations with authoritarian governments may impede investment in some states. So much so that on October 5, when announcing the program to nationalize semiconductor production as a matter of national security, President Biden was very explicit: the Javelin anti-tank missile, so effective against Russian tanks in Ukraine, has a Chinese microchip and “this will end”.
The example is good because it concerns us directly. On August 10, the Brazilian Army received authorization to purchase 222 of these missiles, as well as 33 Launch Command Units and training missiles. The State Department approved the sale (valued at $75 million), which has been stalled for months but still awaits congressional approval. And the purchase of the Javelin is not an isolated case. As President Biden’s speech demonstrates, the US Congress and Executive note the “choices” of any country to “make progress” in investments or sales of products, more or less sensitive, in the reconfigured post-Ukraine world.
Thus, the military and commercial areas are the two sectors that are and will be most rapidly affected by changes in international politics. And, again, the winner – whoever it is – of the presidential elections will have to make decisions that impact them, since, depending on the foreign policy stance adopted, it may jeopardize Brazilian military and commercial interests.
*Gunther Rudzit and Leonardo Trevisan are professors of International Relations at ESPM.